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NHTSA buys car that belonged to Runaway Lexus Lady for $42,500 -- twice Blue Book value

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said moments ago that it has purchased the 2007 Lexus ES350 that took a terrified Rhonda Smith on a 100-mph, six-mile near-death ride in 2006 in order to test the vehicle to find out what went wrong.

NHTSA paid $42,500 for the vehicle. According to Kelley Blue Book, the value of a 2007 Lexus ES350 with 30,000 miles on it (which is what this car has) in "good" condition is $23,185. And I'm being as generous with "good" as I can be with any car that took its driver on a 100-mph, six-mile near-death ride. Even if the car was in "excellent" condition, Blue Book value is only $24,485.

NHTSA said the Smiths sold the car with 3,000 miles on it and did not name the buyer or whoever eventually sold it to the agency.

NHTSA will take the Lexus to its Vehicle Research & Test Center in East Liberty, Ohio, to try to find out what happened.

Despite repeated denials from Toyota, many drivers and some lawmakers -- and at least one engineering professor -- think the unintended acceleration that has plagued so many Toyotas could be caused by electronic problems, not the mechanical reasons Toyota has cited.

“NHTSA will thoroughly examine the Smiths’ car as we work to get to the bottom of possible causes for sudden acceleration," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

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By Frank Ahrens  |  February 26, 2010; 4:55 PM ET
Categories:  Congress , Corporations , The Ticker  | Tags: NHTSA, Ray LaHood, Toyota problems, toyota, toyota congressional hearings, toyota recall model and years  
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Next: Oversight chair accuses Toyota of withholding court documents, keeping secret 'Books of Knowledge'


So let me get this straight: She drove 6 miles at 100mph without thinking to put the car in NEUTRAL?

These drivers need to be reexamined

Posted by: louarmstrong | February 26, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

She did not know how to put it in neutral or stop the engine which is possible if she just kept driving. But she could make a call to her husband driving at 100 miles per hour on a highway full or other cars. And she is terrified to talk about it even today but had no problem selling the defective car to someone else. I'm sure NHTSA won't find any mechanical fault with the car because the whole report is a fraud. Then NHTSA can make the case that it must have been an electronic malfunction.

Posted by: vkcmd | February 26, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

When i read that NHTSA bought the 'runaway' Lexus for twice the going amount, that is even if the party could sell this car today, i was dumbfounded. What is this government agency thinking, spending my hard earned TAX dollars on a car not even worth half that amount? Is there any sense left in our Federal Government or do they think they can just print it at will? I am in the dark here!

Posted by: rudolfrojas | February 26, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Yo, NHTSA, over here! I have a 2001 Camry with the same problem, only worse! See, I was driving on the freeway, and all of a sudden, without any warning, the car sped up to 200 mph! There was nothing I could do to stop it! I used the foot brake, the hand brake, turned off the engine, turned off the radio, but nothing worked! I called 911, Fox TV, and NASA, but it kept going. I prayed, lit a candle, and even converted to Islam, but that didn't help either. This went on for over an hour!

Now I'm afraid to drive. I'm sure you want to test my car to see what went wrong. In the national interest, I'll sell it for a bargain price of $100,000 so that no one else will experience what I went through.

Posted by: donnolo | February 26, 2010 8:48 PM | Report abuse

hey louarmstrong and vkcmd did you even listen to what Rhonda Smith said in her testimony? she stated that she not only put her car in neutral but also in reverse and had the emergency brake on but the car was still accelerating. you sound like toyota employees trying to blame the victims just like the management of your company

Posted by: jmfromdc | February 26, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Shame on you, Rhonda.

Unsecured heavy rubber all-weather mat rested atop the factory installed carpet mat, End of story
excerpt from Reuters
NHTSA examined the vehicle and suspected the problem was related to floor mats that can jam the accelerator. The report said that the unsecured heavy rubber all-weather mat rested atop the factory installed carpet mat, a point NHTSA said later could cause it to move forward unintentionally. A second, much larger floor mat-related recall in October 2009 was triggered by renewed government scrutiny after a Lexus crash in California last August that killed four people. the car was later sold to an owner who drove it for 27,000 miles and reported no acceleration problems, the Transportation Department said. Regulators believe floor mats are linked to at least five U.S. crash deaths, with 29 other consumer reports under review alleging fatalities associated with unintended acceleration.

Posted by: tedi1 | February 28, 2010 7:52 AM | Report abuse

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